That will inspire me to think of a character idea, or ideas, I might have some in mind already, based on what I've played in the past or ideas I want to try out. These are usually no more than a sentence or two, maybe even a couple of words. Like "holy warrior", "roguish pirate" "spoilt princess" or "bitchy Madam". Some will be obviously wrong for the game world, discard these. You can't play a pirate if the rules say there aren't any pirates or a princess in a world with only democracy. However, you can play someone who is princess-ey or piratical. You can get the flavour without wearing the hat / crown / parrot.
That said, it will do you no favours to be playing *entirely* against brief on your first outing in a game. The game background is there to help you. Trust it.
Once you have a few workable ideas then you can sketch out a bit more of what they are like. I'm fond of stories, so I'll often do this by writing a little story about their life and then using those experiences to determine their attitudes. Sometimes I do it the opposite way around. For example I will decide I want to play an arrogant character. I will then make a background that gives them this arrogance, and usually more flavour - they are highborn and spoilt (arrogant, but not much to back it up), they are a skilled student of magic (arrogant AND they can back it up).
If you are going with someone else and they are going to be IC connected, generate character together. Make them complement each other rather than being the same character played by two people - then you can help each other out in the game.
Have one or two inconsistencies. No-one is perfect, and no-one espouses one ideal to the exclusion of all others.
Have secrets. Not too many, but perhaps the odd thing that you would rather people didn't know, or are exclusive to your nearest and dearest. Have things that people can find out about you if they get closer. Is your sneaky thief secretly the lost daughter of a nobleman who wanted to make it on her own rather than with Daddies' money? Is your po-faced diplomat secretly dreaming of their lover back home?
Don't make up stuff that directly contradicts the stuff in the game background. That will confuse people and not give you good game. Or they will think your character is mad. Or suspect you of lying. If you want to play a mad liar, then that's obviously your call, but I'd recommend playing something a bit simpler, to start off with.
It's OK not to know the ENTIRE game background, and no-one is expected to memorise the lot - after all, can you name every country on this planet? And their capital cities?
Once you've got your character and your nation take some time to learn a few things about them, that you can throw into conversation. Generally you will know the most about your own nation, then have a few thoughts and opinions on others, depending on who you are playing. Use this to your advantage as a new player and give your character reasons to be a bit vague - your character may not be well travelled, or may have lived a sheltered life, or may just be young.
A lot of games have religions. These give you good roleplaying hooks to hang a character off - are they faithful? Why are they and to what extent? What values to the espouse - how have these values helped or hindered them? Again, think about the amount of information you are interested in memorising and create a character accordingly. A zealot will be able to recite reams of prose, or debate endless points of faith. A vaguely faithful person will not.
Playing your character - useful hints and tips
- Characters have certain ways of talking that reflect their upbringing. Memorise a few good phrases for situations that are likely to come up
- There are certain 21st century things we idiomatically say that your character won't. Try to train yourself out of saying things like "Oh Christ" and have something else to say like "My stars!" or whatever is suitable
- Think about how your character sits, moves, eats, speaks. Are they fast or slow. Timid or brave. Do they talk with their hands? Are they polite? Are they flirtateous? Are they shy? Bring these things out in their behaviour - let people discover your character.
- Have a reason to be on the field, doing the stuff you like doing (not necessarily the stuff your *character* likes doing - I have had a lot of fun playing a huffy servant, for example, where the character hated having to help his feckless master, but I had a lot of fun).
- Have a mixed bag of stuff to do to give you opportunities to interact with other people AND to sit by yourself in peace if you, personally, need some time out. Messenger and servant characters are good for that, as you can travel around and chat to people.
- This doesn't have to be the stuff that is on your characters skill list, there's lots of other stuff to do that isn't a skill in game, but might be obvious from the way the game background is written. Handy props include: sketchbook, songs, musical instruments, little bits of cheap costume jewellery to tinker with, food and drink to share or sell, a journal to write in, poetry to compose...
- Have stories to share - little bits of things from where you come from, like "this weather reminds me of when I was little and my father was hanging washing to dry near the farmhouse. Whenever it gets like this I can always smell the lavender he used on my pillow to help me get to sleep at nights"
- Have opinions on things. Use your character background to help with this, or develop them in play based on what happens to you or your friends
- Make friends. If you can, find them OC to chat to them, this will make your friendship better.
- Make enemies. If you can, find them OC to chat to them, this will make your enemy-ship better, and let you both know that although your characters hate each other, you are both actually cool people.**
- Give your character a motive, or better, motives. The desire to find True Love, the need to serve your country, a rampaging hatred of Insert Culture Here, the desire to convert heathens. Remember - sensible people do not go on adventures, they stay at home, so don't be scared to give your character big goals.
- Have a "win condition" something that if your character achieves, you will have "won". This could be anything, and your character might not actually understand or even agree with this - many of my win conditions have been things like "Get Assassinated By Group X" or "Die Gloriously In Battle Saving My Lover"
** On this note, if someone is rude to you because of a mean thing your character did, and keeps on being a dick even after you have tried to say hello or buy them a drink then that behaviour is Not On. Most roleplayers are cool, but some people may not be very good at handling the experience of having something bad happen to their character. I'd recommend backing off and avoiding them, or if it gets bad, talk to the game team.